AUSTIN — The last time the Salado boys golf team was sporting gold, it was the end of an era.
This time, it could very well be the beginning of another one.
In what is longtime Salado golf coach Bobby Peschel’s final season after a decade at the helm, Eagles junior Dane Hankamer took it on himself to make sure he went out with one more gold medal around his neck.
After bogeying seven of the front nine holes, Hankamer battled severe winds to score 1-over-par on the back nine, including parring his final three holes Friday to shoot a two-day 156 (77-79) and win the individual Class 2A state golf championship at Roy Kizer Golf Course.
“We knew this was his last year coming in, so individually I felt like I had to win it for him since he’s accustomed to winning so many (gold medals),” Hankamer said.
With only one senior on the team, recruited to secure a fifth player, the junior-laden Eagles also sent Peschel off wearing a bronze parting gift with a third-place team finish at the University Interscholastic League's Class 2A state golf tournament. Salado finished with a two-day 702 (344-358), six strokes ahead of Crockett but 13 behind state runner-up Whitesboro and 15 behind champion Holliday.
“For Salado golf, (competing at state) is a way of life — this state tournament is what we live by,” Peschel said. “(And) you never turn medals down.”
Fellow junior Kase Spears had his second-straight big day, shooting a 6-over-par 77 — including 2-over on the front nine — and finished tied for eighth individually with a 161, while Kyle Heiner contributed a 184 (88-96), Javier Cruz-Cortez had a 201 (95-106) and lone senior Brandon Womac shot a 221 (114-107).
“I think we’re really, really talented and we’re on the cusp of this group being real, real good,” Peschel said. “Sometimes these guys don’t really believe they’re as good as I think they are, but today this one (Spears) showed it. I was real proud of our effort.”
But it was Hankamer’s par-heavy back nine that secured the Eagles’ first gold medal since current Baylor senior Ryan O’Rear won three straight individually and led Salado to back-to-back team championships in 2008-09.
Coming off the green on hole No. 17, Dane Hankamer’s father whispered in his ear: “You’re up by one right now.”
Oblivious of his overall standing to that point, Hankamer realized the implications — par and he sends Peschel home with some serious hardware.
“It definitely sent a few butterflies through my stomach, but after I got off the tee box well I was confident that I could put it on the green,” he said.
Landing on the green with his second shot, 15 feet from the hole, Hankamer’s birdie putt rolled 14 feet but hooked just left of the cup. At that point, he knew he had it in the bag, quickly tapping in the final foot for the much-needed par.
Of course, pars are what won it for Hankamer, who was even through the final three holes while his closest competition, Marion medalist Scottie Brown, double-bogeyed No. 16 and 18 and Holliday’s R.J. Trainham — who was one stroke back of Hankamer through 14 and led after Day 1 — triple-bogeyed No. 17 to fall out of contention.
“I feel like I’m more mature than I was freshman year and there was no doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t play well on those last few holes,” Hankamer said.
Hankamer redeemed himself from a rough front nine with a birdie on a 424-foot par-4 No. 11, using an 8-iron from 140 yards out and then sinking the 10-foot putt.
“That birdie was a huge momentum swing, after that birdie I knew I was right back into it and had a good shot to win,” he said.
With his confidence back, Hankamer was a par machine, finishing even on five of the last seven holes, including the final three to secure the victory.